Attract and Retain the Clinical Workforce

Female surgeon in surgical gown and mask

It’s no surprise to anyone working in health care that we are struggling with retention. Nurses, physicians, technicians and administrative personnel are all leaving. The nursing shortage, in particular, is causing a crisis in many hospitals, and stopgap solutions are not sustainable. Hospitals have previously experienced varying degrees of staffing issues, but the ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated the situation.

People are exhausted and re-evaluating their priorities. We're all questioning the long hours, hectic schedules and never-ending pace that we used to take for granted. Some are looking for different workplace settings, while others are leaving the workforce entirely. The "Great Resignation" has had an impact on every industry, including health care.

We cannot afford to take our clinical workforce for granted. You should assume that the members of your team are thinking about leaving. The emphasis should be on re-recruitment. Rather than reacting to a departure and competing with external offers, leaders should focus on a strategy of personalized retention.

Improving the Workplace Environment  

Health care organizations that improve their workplace environment and engage personnel will not only retain their best people but also become preferred destinations for others. While it may appear that the only thing you can do is to try to keep your organization stable, now is the time to reinvent the status quo to provide a better experience for clinical teams.

Ideally, you want a workplace where people can thrive and do their best work. An environment that encourages wellbeing, inclusion, respect and a sense of community. Leaders who promote these types of settings will succeed in attracting, retaining and engaging a strong clinical workforce.

Creating an Engaging Culture  

There are basic steps to creating this type of workplace climate. And it isn't simply a matter of paying people more. Although having a reasonable salary and the resources required to perform your job safely and adequately are essential, there are more powerful incentives than money that influence people to stay at an organization and feel engaged in their work.

Leaders should accommodate a variety of working styles, such as flexible schedules and remote work, whenever possible. Seek feedback from team members on which positive changes should be kept and which old practices should be phased out. Frontline personnel and leaders can collaborate to redesign workflows. This demonstrates a great deal of respect, which encourages loyalty.

It is also important to provide opportunities for professional growth. Allow people to take on new roles and responsibilities that will enable them to develop and hone their professional skills. The ability to advance one’s career within an organization goes a long way toward increasing engagement and retention.

The Power of Purpose

When leaders take the time to recognize the contributions of individual team members, it sends a powerful message. People want to know how their efforts help the organization, their coworkers and the patients. It's energizing to be appreciated and know that you're making a difference.

Your team also wants to make a difference outside of the organization’s traditional scope. For example, during the early phases of the pandemic, one hospital partnered with a local food bank and volunteered to deliver meals to ensure that families did not go hungry. Making it easy for employees to participate in community service enriches the workplace and boosts professional satisfaction.

Final Word

People are leaving health care because of ongoing stress and chronic fatigue. Leaders can reverse this trend by learning how to engage teams and create an environment where individuals can thrive, grow professionally and make meaningful contributions. This type of work environment promotes mission-driven teams and attracts the top people.


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